What I Wanted To See At Occupy Wall Street


So to be clear, as a New York City resident I did not actually go to Occupy Wall Street Zuccotti/Liberty Park in Manhattan. I did get to Out of the Park and into the Streets. 99% Day of Action in November. I can tell you what I saw at Out of the Park, what I wanted to see at Occupy Wall Street and I can also tell I finally saw what I wanted to see at Occupy Wall Street at Occupy Oakland. More on that later. First up, what I wanted to see at Occupy Wall Street.

Occupy Wall Street
I’ve heard the speeches from smart people, I’ve watched older folks get all hot and bothered just knowing something is happening and I’ve heard people who have done nothing but be vocal about the issues they take with the occupations. What I wanted to see and hear from this movement is a more inclusive membership and leadership in terms of race and sex and a more holistic environmental message. The environment is the foundation of everything, without it we have nothing if all the money and banks disappear tomorrow. And your movement is hollow unless women and non white people are full members and heard on all levels. Indigenous and Black people in this country specifically have much to teach about what needs to be changed here. Occupy Wall Street’s essential reading book list seems pretty shitty. There are no non white writers, only one woman, and Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food instead of Pollan’s much longer, more in depth, comprehensive and more substantive The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. [Note: They just added Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism by Cornel West, probably after being criticized.]

I wanted to hear that said at one of these occupy movements. I wanted to hear capitalism, racism, patriarchy and even civilization singled out and addressed for the ills they have cast on this planet as parts of a system that ultimately truly serves no one. I wanted to hear the occupy movements not focus on a class argument because that doesn’t address the fundamental issues and is often used to avoid discussions about race.

Day 36 Occupy Wall Street October 21 2011 Shankbone 49

I wanted to see someone go to one of these occupations and say “It’s great that as part of the American population you’ve woken up and decided to get active, but there are things you NEED to know in order to be effective and do the right thing.” I needed to see an adult address them about all of these issues.

In the book Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet co-author Lierre Keith describes how many on the Left fall into the idea that personal salvation and choices and living in a utopia of your own making is not resistance on the scale of the issues we are fighting against and cannot be real a solution. I feared, at least, the Occupy Wall Street was falling into that trap. They were so devastated and hurt that their encampment was dismantled. That’s when I realized they were getting a sense of community and spirituality from living together in the park. BUT living together in Zuccotti/Liberty Park is not the point of their movement. Somehow I think that got lost. They became static. Gotta pack light and be ready to move like a cheetah.

I give them credit though. For many of the strategic suggestions I’ve heard for them, they always seem one step ahead, at least in that they have already addressed that in their group. Not being lighter on their feet though seemed like a mistake to me though and maybe it’s best a certain innocence seems to be lost. We in the U.S. like innocence but given the things we the people do and our government does on our behalf or allegedly on our behalf it can be argued we don’t deserve innocence here anyway, especially adults. Not when that innocence is taken from so many, sometimes so early in life elsewhere, while we benefit here.

I sense a real resistance of Black people to get involved in the occupy movement (which is multiracial but does include a People Of Color Caucus, though that alone seems like it points to a problem) and I understand the reports of racism in the movement but I still think trashing it entirely is wrong. We should stand in solidarity on some level with movements for justice anywhere.

Photo Credit: David Shankbone

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